“Kaity, are you sure this is what you want?”
A final scan of the room showed nothing left behind. “Yes, Ebony, I’m positive. Luke made it clear he doesn’t want this baby, which means he doesn’t want me.”
After months of failed attempts to convince my boyfriend of two years that keeping our family together was best, I’d had enough. The moment he learned about the pregnancy, he suggested abortion. After arguing, he conceded to try and work things out. Everything went fine for a while, but the more I asked him to participate in the doctor’s appointments and for ideas about setting up the baby’s room, the more standoffish he became.
His decision to avoid the sonogram and ignore my calls and text messages was enough.
I had three months until my baby’s arrival.
My baby…Who’d have thought I’d become a single mom?
A few short months ago, my life was perfect. I worked my dream job and had a man who loved me.
Turns out I was wrong about that.
I made some bad decisions in my life, but it was too late to change them now.
For the next three months my focus would be providing my baby with a happy home. And regardless of what Luke thought, he would still have responsibility in providing for his child.
“That’s everythin’. Let’s get out of here before he gets home.”
“And that’s a wrap!”
Thunderous applause caused my unborn child to jump in my womb. I covered my ears and smiled.
“Hey, Kat, will you be at the cast party tonight?” Keith, the Key Grip guy, yelled through the din.
“Kaitlyn, I need you in my office. Now.” My boss spun on her heels and walked away.
I grimaced and shrugged at Keith.
Alexandria Fleming was the Head Costume Designer of Just How She Likes It, one of the hottest shows on television. For the past two years I’d been her right hand girl. Anything she needed, I did. Dependable, ready to work late, and always on time were the qualities she valued most about me.
My heart raced. Alexandria rarely smiled at work because she took her job seriously. I would think of all days she’d at least smile a little today. The final episode of its third season had just finished taping, and the show was scheduled for a fourth. The contract to extend her job had been signed weeks ago.
Mine, on the other hand, hadn’t been offered.
My stomach dropped as realization hit. I was being fired. Somehow after two years of a near perfect track record, I screwed up. With all of my personal drama manifesting in the last few weeks, it was hard to hide the stress. Leaving Luke, while carrying his child, took an emotional toll. And then Alexandria started asking questions.
With a new apartment and baby on the way, I couldn’t afford to lose my job. My mind raced. If I got fired, I would have to file for unemployment. Who’d hire a woman who’s three months from going on maternity leave?
Alexandria held the door of her office open as I walked in and settled on the edge of the seat across from her cluttered desk. My baby kicked hard; I put my hand on my belly to massage the spot. It was probably a result of my sudden emotional change. I noticed over the last few weeks any time I got upset or excited about something, my baby would react by kicking. I promised myself I’d stop stressing. Stress mixed with my high blood pressure problem wasn’t a good thing.
Thankfully, the show was going on hiatus for the next few weeks. The break would allow me the down time needed until I gave birth. My doctor had already threatened me with forced bed rest if I didn’t take time off from work.
Time off from work was a luxury I could not afford right now.
I heard the door close behind me. Without a word, Alexandria settled in her chair and rummaged through the stack of files on her desk; her grim expression never changed.
“You’re aware I’ve been working on evaluations for the past few weeks.” Her gaze drifted to my stomach. “Will you be returning once you have the baby?”
“Yes, I love my job and have no intention of quittin’. The idea of workin’ in Hollywood motivated me to leave Texas and move to L.A.”
There was no response. After a moment, she sat two files on the desk in front of her. “You have a Theater B.A. Degree from U.C.L.A., and if my memory serves me correct, you graduated with honors.”
Her head tilted to the side. “Yet you didn’t become an actor?”
“No, the competition is too fierce. Besides, my interest was in costume design.”
“I see.” She paused. “Kaitlyn, if I left the show, do you think you could handle my job?”
My eyes widened. Could this be a trick question? After two years of working on the set, I knew it like the back of my hand. For the past year I’d worked directly under her. For the last six months, I’d handled the mini projects assigned to me with an assistant to help.
I swallowed hard. My hand absently rested on my belly. “If I needed to fill in while they searched for a replacement─”
“It’s a yes or no question, Kaitlyn. Could you replace me?” Her expression was stern, her eyes focused.
I gulped. “Yes.”
One of her eyebrows arched. “You don’t sound confident.”
I cleared my throat. “Yes.”
She clasped her fingers together before nodding as if she agreed with my reply. “You’re the first assistant who’s taken the initiative to do more than what’s asked. I appreciate that about you.”
“This,” she indicated the files with a wave of her hand, “…is your Matrix moment. I have two packets with your name on them. One holds a contract for another year of working as Assistant Costume Designer on this show. With the ratings being what they are, it’s possible there are two or three more years in the works. There’s even been talk of a spin-off. The other holds a contract for a brand new show. The pilot and first few episodes will start filming in five months. As of now, there’s no idea how it will be received or how long it will last. The cast is made up of fresh new faces, and the studio needs a young, but experienced, person for the Head Costume Designer position. When the studio asked for my recommendations, your name was the only one I gave.”
“Did you hear what I said?”
Unable to respond verbally, I nodded.
Alexandria laughed, stood, and walked over to shake my hand. “Welcome to the big leagues. It’s time to make life changing decisions about your career.”
“Did you say one of them was for a Head Costume Designer job?”
“Yes it is. The show is based on the concept of Friends, only hipper, sassier, and set with what’s relevant now. You have a week to decide. Take both packets home, study the contracts carefully before you and decide. Remember, it’s not just about you anymore.”
“Come on, Betsy, you can handle it,” I cooed and rubbed the dashboard of my car. The engine idled roughly while we sat at the traffic light.
My attention focused on the auto shop across the street, praying there was a public restroom. The minute the light changed, I bore down on the gas and jumped in front of a car in the next lane. “Sorry!” I wiggled my fingers in my rearview at the offended driver who responded by leaning on his horn. At this point I didn’t care. My car was on the verge of breaking down and I seriously had to pee.
I drove into a parking space, got out as fast as I could, and waddled to the front door. The reception area of the auto repair shop left a lot to be desired. It was small, hot, and lacked an open window. An oscillating fan sat on the counter, pushing the smell of gasoline and oil around the small space. No one was at the front desk.
“Excuse me, do you have a bathroom?” I yelled.
I spied the service bell and banged on it, praying someone in the garage would hear me over the racket of machinery.
Words I didn’t understand were yelled as a man in overalls covered with grease and grime walked around the corner. The fresh wave of fumes made me gag; I automatically stepped away from the counter and held my nose.
Reddish brown eyes framed in a young face streaked with grease from his forehead to his chin, topped off with thick jet black hair apprised me. His overalls appeared to have been gray once, but were now black.
He wiped his hands on an equally dirty rag. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, I got this card from my neighbor, Mrs. Alvarez. She told me to ask for Alejandro.” I held the business card out for his inspection.
“Sí, ella es mi Abuela. What can I do for you?”
“Excuse me?” I squeezed my thighs together and fought the urge to squirm.
A half smile slipped across his lips. “I said she is my grandmother. What can I do for you?”
“Oh, I don’t speak much Spanish, sorry. Do you have a restroom?”
He indicated for me to follow him out into the shop. “Be careful, Señora, watch your step.”
I tried my best to avoid slippery spots of spilled oil, cords, and miscellaneous tools lying on the floor. “Thanks,” I said, the moment I saw the door. If the office was rough, the bathroom was worse. I closed my eyes to ignore the dirt and grime. When done, I turned the water on with my elbow, and sighed in relief when I spied a halfway decent bottle of soap in a pump. When I reached the office, the mechanic was nowhere to be found. I glanced out of the window and found him standing beside my car.
“Thank you so much.” I plastered on a smile.
“You’re welcome. Now, what is the problem?” He indicated my car with a nod.
“Um, you’re not old enough to be Alejandro.”
“No, I am Antonio, his nephew. My uncle isn’t here right now. If you want to leave, he’ll be back in a few hours.”
“Oh no, she told me I could get a discount if he─”
“I’ll make sure you get it. Now, this is a Nissan Maxima…I’m guessing a 2010?”
“Close, 2009. I bought it used. It’s got a lot of miles on it, but it was a great deal. I didn’t start havin’ problems with the engine until a few weeks ago. It acts funny when I accelerate. And when it idles, the car shakes like it wants to cut off.”
He rattled off something in Spanish.
I stared at him with a blank face.
“Sorry,” he said, sticking the rag in the rear pocket of his overalls. “Pop the hood and start the engine.”
I complied and waited while he did a cursory inspection.
“You need a new fuel filter.”
“Is it gonna be expensive?”
He shrugged. “I have to locate the part and verify the price, but you’ll be looking at a few hundred bucks.”
I groaned. I would be dipping into my budget for my new home. Not to mention the baby’s room.
“How long will it take?”
He glanced at the cars filling the garage bays. “Maybe two days.”
It wasn’t like I had a choice. I followed Antonio to the office and waited for him to write up the work order. I reached for my iPhone in my purse and Googled the name of a local cab company.
No car meant cab rides to work. Cab rides plus a few hundred bucks in auto expenses meant something was going to have to give with what I needed for home and baby.
I needed more money.
My attention went to the two manila envelopes in my large bag. My future lay in those contracts. It was time to make decisions. As soon as I got home, I would take a hot shower, grab a large bowl of fruit, some juice, and examine them both.
For once in my life, I needed my decision to be the right one. I’d had enough dealing with the consequences of making the wrong ones.
I closed my eyes, unable to ignore the wave of nausea as a result of the gasoline fumes.
Antonio waved a hand indicating he wanted me to come outside. He placed a chair against the building so I could sit in the fresh air, and handed me a bottle of water.
I smiled in appreciation. “Thanks.”
He tilted his head to the side and examined me. “No se apure. My sister couldn’t stand the smell either when she was pregnant. How far along are you?”
Surprised by the question, my mouth nearly hung open. “Six months.”
“Ah, good luck with your baby. Is your husband coming to pick you up?”
I shook my head. “No husband, just me and baby. I’ve called a cab. They should be here soon.”
He didn’t say anything for a moment, but he appeared surprised. Self-conscious, I sat a little straighter and twisted the cap off the water. I guess I should get used to that type of reaction.
“Bueno. I’ll give you a call as soon as I know what the damage will be. Have a good evening,” he said, then walked towards my car. I watched him shut the hood, then park it on the other side of the lot.
I gulped the cold liquid. The fresh air helped ease the nausea. It dawned on me his simple act of kindness was more than Luke had done in months.
It would probably be the last nice thing a man did for me. After all, once I had my baby, looking for love would not be an option.